Miguel Angel Jimenez, quite possibly the most interesting golfer and personality on the planet, leads the Open Championship at Muirfield at -3 in the clubhouse after the second round on Friday. The 49-year-old Spaniard will seek to become the oldest major champion in history as he chases his first major title.
Tiger Woods, Lee Westwood, Henrik Stenson, and Dustin Johnson are at 2-under for the tournament. Jimenez, the Spaniard, shot an even-par 71.
The winds picked up at Muirfield in Friday, and many of the par-5s and par-3s were made considerably tougher, especially as holes that played upwind on Thursday played downwind and vice versa. Even though parts of the baked greens were watered late Thursday night, they are still incredibly fast and slippery, and will get more so as the greens harden in the afternoon.
Westwood and Woods will dominate many of the story lines headed into the weekend.
Westwood, an Englishman, is a perennial contender at major championships, but is burdened with being known as one of the best players to have never won a major. Jimenez, a 19-time winner on the European Tour, has also never won a major.
Westwood got off to a blazing start, making five birdies on the front nine and making the turn at 5-under for the day. He struggled on the back nine, though, making three bogeys in addition to a birdie on the 12th hole. He did make huge saves for par and bogey to keep his back nine from becoming even worse.
Stenson had a topsy-turvy round with five birdies, a double bogey, and 2 bogeys en route to a second consecutive 1-under round of 70.
Woods was steady, even though he had trouble reading the speeds of the greens, as he has been prone to do after his injuries. He birdied the par-4 third hole, then gave it back on the next hole. After getting a birdie back on the fifth hole, Woods bogeyed the 8th and 11th holes and then made six straight pars as the winds started to pick up and reversed. He barely missed some short par and birdie putts that could have put him at 5-under for the tournament.
But Woods emphatically ended his round with a birdie on the tough par-4 18th hole in a way he has been unable to do recently in previous tournaments, giving him sorely needed momentum heading into the weekend.
And what a weekend it may be a Muirfield.
This has been the year when big-time golfers have finally broken through at majors. Adam Scott, after suffering a heartbreaking collapse at last year’s Open Championship, finally broke through this year at the Masters to win his first major. At the U.S. Open, Justin Rose, an Englishman, who also suffered one disappointment after another at major championships, finally won his first major. And Westwood, another Englishman, will be have many on his home turf rooting for him to continue the streak.
It would be fitting, though, if Woods stopped the streak of first-time major winners and restored order by winning his 15th major and first since he won the U.S. Open on a broken leg in 2008 at Torrey Pines.
In 2002, Woods came to Muirfield after having won the Masters and the U.S. Open. Trailing by two shots heading into the weekend, Woods seemed on his way to contending for the grand slam. Mother Nature had other plans, though, and Woods got caught up in brutal weather that came in right before his tee time, causing him to shoot his worst round as a professional, an 81.
On the course that haunted him in 2002, Woods will try to jumpstart his lifelong quest to catch Jack Nicklaus’s record of 18 majors.
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